A/N- Here's another old one I hope y'all will like! ;D
A 'Normal' Conversation
I sat by the fireplace late one January evening, sipping cold tea and skimming over the day's news on my laptop, when I came across one article that disturbed me. It was of an incident at a boarding school in Winchester, in which an apparently half-crazed person entered the building with a gun and murdered one of the teachers, claiming revenge for some past offense when later arrested. Though no one else was killed, several children were injured during the episode.
"Don't look so shocked, John," Sherlock said as he walked past me, settling into his own chair with a fresh cup of coffee. "Worse things are happening all the time."
I closed my slightly gaping mouth. I'd been unconscious of the shaken expression that I now felt upon my face, and made an effort to change it. "That makes this no less horrible in itself," I remarked, closing the window to shut down my computer for the night.
My companion was silent and, recognizing this, I glanced up. Sherlock was studying me with some interest, as if by doing so, he could determine what had taken place in my life that this article should bother me as it had. Though I fully believe he could have, he did me the courtesy of asking rather than stating.
"It reminds you of something- doesn't it?"
I had no immediate desire to discuss the traumatic incident of my childhood- I'd certainly spoken to enough counselors in the months following-, and so did my best to avoid Sherlock's eyes. It's difficult when he's doing "the stare." Shortly, however, he broke it off, looking instead into the fire.
"At very least," he remarked, "those who witnessed the teacher's death are quite young. I've found that children are often better able to recover from such an experience than the average adult."
I could hardly believe that. "It's only worse because they're so young," I insisted. "Can you imagine what it's like to witness your friend's or teacher's death at nine years old, and to be helpless yourself in the face of the murderer?"
A tiny, comprehensive eye-twitch from Sherlock and I knew I'd given something away. "They were eleven," he corrected, in a voice that I can only describe as gentle.
I looked away again. "I forgot."
I really would be stupid if I had expected him to leave it at that- and contrary to Sherlock's belief, I'm not. "Just drop it, Sherlock," I urged him.
"You don't want me to know," he determined aloud.
I shook my head to disagree with him, and realizing my action may have the opposite effect, I gave in. "Alright- when I was in fourth grade, this madman came into the school and killed two of the teachers and five kids. A lot of other people were injured, too. I came away safe, but I'd witnessed the whole thing, and it had a heavy effect on me. It was hard to go back to normal afterwards, as if nothing had happened, yet that seemed to be expected."
"You'd lost a close friend," Sherlock said.
I was frustrated by his words. Far be it from me ever to think that I was informing him of anything. "You know the whole story, then," I suggested coldly.
"No," Sherlock answered, to my surprise. "Up until two minutes ago, I had no idea of your involvement in that incident."
My frown was one of confusion. "You can't have been more three years old at the time- how do you remember?"
"I remember from studying it at approximately twenty-three, John, along with all other accounts of past crimes that I could get my hands on."
That did make me feel a bit stupid.
"I only know that you lost a close friend by your voice and expression," Sherlock continued. "Honestly, I'd always suspected that some traumatic event had altered the natural course of your childhood. I've long wanted to know the details."
"I'm sure you could have researched them as well," I half-heartedly snapped.
"Probably. But I wouldn't have," Sherlock replied, in a way that made it difficult to be angry with him.
I shrugged. "There isn't a whole lot to tell. When my dad finally realized I wasn't 'springing back,' he sent me to one counselor after another. Their talks only ever upset me, and I guess I refused to be comforted. According to Harry, I was never really the same. Her and Dad have told me I'm difficult to get close to- and maybe that's because I never wanted to replace Rory." I smiled without humor. "I suppose it doesn't surprise you that I'm capable of clinging to the past so much that it's changed who I am."
"I know your loyalty better than anyone, John," Sherlock answered.
I shook my head, eyes downcast. "It's just silliness now. It's been over thirty years since that day. …I can remember it so well, though." It had been years since I'd even referenced that incident- somehow giving Sherlock an account of it now felt like the cure I'd needed for a very long time. He, however, was looking a bit uncomfortable with the silence- feeling perhaps that he ought to say something, and unsure what to. I cleared my throat, deciding to spare him the discomfort.
"Have you checked all of the papers today?" Such a dramatic change of subject should have felt ridiculous, but Sherlock and I treated it as if it wasn't.
"Yes- while there are no problems worth their mention, we did make the smallest newspaper in London."
"Oh? What does it say?"
"Keep in mind, John, that this really is such a small newspaper as to have never mentioned our cases before- they believe that they're introducing us to London. Oh, and whatever idiot checked the type allowed your name to be printed Whatson."
I scoffed, but didn't suppress a grin. "What-son? Wow. No one's ever had trouble with my first or last name- it's only Hamish that I have to spell aloud."
"How very simple life must be for you, John- if for that reason alone. I had a science teacher in the fourth grade who deliberately spelt my name Homes every opportunity she could get."
That made me chuckle. "I'll bet that bothered you."
"She despised me, purely because I knew more about the subject than she did- and at only nine years old."
That made me laugh.
Sherlock appeared pleased with himself for it. "My literature teacher tried to fail me that year," he went on. "He would constantly push me to be more 'colorful' in book analyses."
"Well, I can't imagine you failing a class."
"He didn't quite manage it. And he was relieved not to have me in his classroom for another grade. Couldn't stand me showing up his other students."
I shook my head. "Oh, why am I not surprised that you were that kid in school."
"What kid?" was Sherlock's naïve question.
"The nerd," I replied, enjoying the sound of the word as well as the effect it had upon my friend. "Or geek- whichever you prefer."
"I was neither a geek nor a nerd," Sherlock replied, clearly offended by the suggestion. "I was simply brighter than all the other children in the class- which is no great accomplishment in itself, mind."
"Bright; nerdy- where's the difference?" I said.
"Define 'nerd,' John," Sherlock challenged.
I could only shrug in response. Who doesn't know what a 'nerd' is? I took a dictionary off the bookshelf and laid back on the couch while flipping through the pages.
Sherlock looked over skeptically. "'N' comes after 'M'-"
"Shh. Ah, here we are. 'Nerd: an unstylish, unattractive, or socially inept person.'" Smiling, I looked up to meet a most blank expression.
I glanced back down at the dictionary. "'Nerd: an unstylish-'"
"Says the man in the striped jumper."
"Who really ought to look in the mirror."
"OR socially inept person."
Sherlock just frowned. "I'm not 'socially inept'," he claimed.
I hadn't taken a breath to reply to that before he followed up his remark with, "So I state the obvious to some people who are too dense to see it- truth-telling is a very poor synonym for 'socially inept'."
"Some things just don't need to be said, Sherlock."
"Oh, the stereotypes that go into that statement!"
"You know what- nevermind," I told him, because if I got into an intellectual argument with Sherlock now, I'd never get to sleep. "Just forget the whole thing."
"Count on it," was the prompt reply (which I ignored).
Probably anyone else- who didn't know Sherlock- would have come away with the idea that this was a strange or negative way for a talk to end.
As for me, the impression was that this was the closest thing to a 'normal' conversation that we'd ever shared.